Russian police have arrested prominent gay activists in Moscow ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest finale, reports UK Gay News.

The gay pride march, Slavic Pride, was banned by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, while an anti-gay demonstration by right-wing ultra-nationalists was allowed to take place.

Demonstrators gathered near Moscow State University where they chanted “Homophobia is the shame of Russia!” and “Equal rights for everyone!” They were quickly surrounded by police who violently arrested the protesters.

Among the arrested were three prominent gay activists: Nikolai Alekseev, organizer of Slavic Pride, Peter Tatchell, a UK gay rights activist, and Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Chicago-based gay rights group Gay Liberation Network.

Thayer was nabbed by police as he spoke with reporters. “If … the right to assemble is taken away from lesbian and gay people here in Russia, then other Russians have to fear their own freedom,” Thayer said seconds before he was carted away.

“The arrests were done in a very violent, aggressive manner,” Tatchell told The Associated Press after his release. “We believe the reaction of the Moscow police was totally unjustified.”

Police seized more gay rights activists involved in a smaller demonstration in Moscow's central Pushkin Square. Authorities said 40 demonstrators were arrested but several sources have reported as many as 80 arrests.

Organizers called upon Eurovision Song Contest participants to stand in solidarity by boycotting the contest's finale just hours away.

“I call upon all of the artists who are due to perform at tonight's Eurovision [finale] to boycott the event and send a message that Russia's state oppression of human rights is not acceptable,” said Alekseev.

At least one contestant had threatened to boycott the event should violence occur at Slavic Pride. Dutch singer Gordon, a member of The Toppers, told Radio Netherlands, “If violence is used during the demonstration, I'll fly straight back to the Netherlands.”